Snoop Dogg’s ‘Bush’: Album Review
“I think if rap never came out, I’d have been an R&B singer,” Snoop Dogg recently said to The New York Times. The gangsta rap superstar — as well as us music lovers — are now finding out how that would sound in Bush (out today, ), which is his best album in years.
As if to ease listeners in to this change of pace, the first voice heard is not Snoop’s, but executive producer Pharrell’s. “Baby, you can be a star, hey (in Los Angeles) / Get yourself a medical card, yeah (in Los Angeles),” the Voice mentor sings on “California Roll,” his boyish voice in fine form. Pharrell’s vocals are backed by acoustic guitar strums, twinkling keys and Stevie Wonder’s harmonica — it’s soft pop paradise. When Snoop enters on the track though, he doesn’t rap. Instead he sings, with his laconic drawl smoothed out as he does for most of Bush and sounding younger than he did even in 1993’s G-funk founding Doggystyle.
Play Bush in the background, and Snoop’s gentle voice barely registers. Compared to how he is as a show-stealing rapper (“like Iceberg Slim with a hint of Dr. Seuss,” as SPIN once said), Snoop as a singer actually needs the added punch that musical kinfolk like T.I. and Charlie Wilson provide on the album. (The latter heads the Gap Band, who just earned a songwriting credit in Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk.”)
But if you listen closely, the West Coast rap veteran is actually convincing as a throwback R&B singer. He’s spellbound by weed and women as always, though now also sweet-sounding enough to handle most of Bush‘s alluring hooks himself. “A body like that ain’t hard to feed / ‘Cause girl, I’ll eat you up,” Snoop croons in closing track “I’m Ya Dogg,” his voice barely above a whisper. Still, and to my surprise, his effortlessly cool vibe outshines a stilted guest verse by Rick Ross and a more playful (albeit brief) one by Kendrick Lamar.
“Awake” is a musical ode to medical marijuana strain Moon Rock, indebted sound-wise to 1979 chart-topper “Ring My Bell,” that Snoop should have had in his arsenal years ago. Same goes for “So Many Pros” and “Peaches N Cream,” two infectious line dance songs that could have preceded The Sugarhill Gang’s “Apache.” The jittery guitar licks, vocoder-laced vocals and deep groove all make sense because it brings out the inherent funk, disco and, yes, R&B leanings that Snoop has had for his entire career.
Just as he did with Dr. Dre on Doggystyle, Snoop has just one producer handling Bush. (The reason why may be 7 Days of Funk, his 2013 joint album with ’80s funk/boogie revivalist Dâm-Funk.) So it would be easy to give executive producer Pharrell most of the credit for why Bush works. He is behind Snoop’s biggest pop hits, and to an extent, the album sounds like a companion to 2014 solo record G I R L. As Bush makes clear, though, Pharrell works best when tasked to find new ways to showcase a superstar’s easy appeal.
Snoop Dogg transforms himself yet again on the Bush album, though this time he had the sense to do so without a new alias — like he did with 2013’s Reincarnated (Snoop Lion) and 7 Days of Funk (Snoopzilla). Truthfully, he doesn’t need one. If Doggystyle is Snoop playing it cool during the still-turbulent aftermath of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Bush is him driving around that same city, top down, as if he’s owned it for years now. This is Snoop, aging gracefully.
Idolator Score: 3.5/5
— Christina Lee
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